What Happened to Monday (Seven Sisters)

Release: Friday, August 18, 2017 (Netflix)


Written by: Max Botkin; Kerry Williamson

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola

In the context of Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola’s dystopian crime thriller What Happened to Monday — a.k.a. Seven Sisters — China’s methods of dealing with an extraordinary overpopulation crisis would be no less controversial but they would also no longer be the exception; rather, the opposite. In a not-so-distant future we’ve exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity and organizations like the Child Allocation Bureau have become necessary evils, instituting similar if not harsher one-child-per-family mandates across the globe. Unlike in China, where violators face stiff financial penalties, in the film excess offspring are taken away and put into cryogenic sleep, after which they’re promised to “wake up to a better world.”

Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe)’s life becomes impossibly complicated when his wife dies after giving birth to identical septuplets (all played by one actress at the child and adult stages — Clara Read and Noomi Rapace respectively). To protect his illegally large family Terrence establishes a complex set of rules that will allow his daughters to come and go from the house with some degree of freedom. Each is named after a day of the week and is allowed to go out on “their day.” When they do, they assume a collective, physical identity of one Karen Settman, their mother. To keep a consistent image every detail of each trip outside is shared with the group so everyone remains on the same page.

This routine is maintained for some 30 years, until finally one of the siblings fails to return home after work. Fearing her capture at the hands of the C.A.B.’s head honcho Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), an intense, scary woman who believes the One Child Policy is the only way to save future generations from living in the same squalor, the six other ‘Karen Settmans’ debate whether to turn themselves in or risk blowing their cover by going to save the one.

Regrettably What Happened to Monday is defined by broad shapes and genre tropes. It features seven different personalities but the overall piece fails to establish one of its very own. Rapace continues to use her striking beauty to channel chameleonic qualities and they, along with her hairstylists, are put to great use here. She elevates the entire picture, giving it a bleeding heart, as does a surprisingly grounded performance from Dafoe as dear old dad. But the latter isn’t tasked with interacting with his own likeness on screen.

It’s impressive how much two actors can inform a film’s personality, yet they’re still not enough to overcome clumsy writing that throws aside logic and narrative cohesion in service of an increasingly action-laden plot. As the dire circumstances devolve the incompetence of the bad guys never ceases to amaze. It approaches something close to a farce with the number of convenient plot mechanics that force us into a grand reveal that’s never as grand or as shocking as it should have been.

Still, the film’s well-made enough to be frivolously entertaining. Wirkola’s firm if unremarkable direction gets us from Point A to Point B with enough style, grit and emotion to make What Happened to Monday an above-average dystopian drama worth recommending to those who are less fussy. And Rapace’s ability to emote more than makes up for much of the less successful thematic ruminations. As we watch a family getting torn apart in a variety of cruel ways, it’s the actress’ unique expressiveness that magnifies the emotion, that gets us to re-invest just a little bit more, in spite of everything.

Recommendation: Emotionally engaging but ultimately familiar and never as deeply cutting as it could be, as an epic family tragedy that unfolds piecewise, What Happened to Monday (Seven Sisters) offers enough solid thrills and wicked action sequences to be memorable but as a broader commentary on what’s going on in our world today as far as overpopulation, this movie fails to express its concern in a way that’s truly noticeable, much less urgent.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 123 mins.

Quoted: “What happens to one of you, happens to all of you.” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

14 thoughts on “What Happened to Monday (Seven Sisters)

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  3. I am struggling finding anything worth watching on Netflix. This seems somewhat interesting but it doesn’t seem to wow. I think I am getting too to picky. Based on your review, I am not sure I will give it a go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah Netflix is weird. There’s a bevy of things on there that I’ve been wanting to watch/putting off for some time now. There’s always something good but I never find the energy to actually do the digging lol.

      As far as Netflix originals go, this one’s solid enough. I’d give it a try, it’s certainly no dreck but I guess it’s just a bit too flavorless for me, despite Noomi Rapace. Which I’m also happy to say is more than just a gimmick.

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  4. 3.0? Hmmm… I’ll still it check as the concept certainly appeals. I find Netflix films are always lacking a certain something though. Great ideas that don’t quite come together.

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    • What’s up Mark! 😀 yeah, sadly the slide into cliche and, well really more than that the sheer number of convenient plot mechanisms, became something I could not ignore. But I can not understate how good the performances are also. Maybe it’s worth a 3.5, but then the ending is just silly. Watch it and let me know what u think!

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        • Never have to apologize for that! It’s hard to keep the momentum going for me too. Lately been thinking of ways to try and expand this blog and try and get its reach larger, but then realizing the amount of work that will require I may not go for that after all! Lol. I like the privacy sometimes, and I’m really not in the mood to go jumping into Twitter and all that either

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          • I always feel guilty that I’m giving some blogs attention. Blogs that I love. I don’t aim high myself anymore. I did once and was getting like 80,000 hits a day. It was exhausting though. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon!


            • It at some point becomes a job and that’s when it’s not as fun. By the way, I totally share your sentiment re: the way Netflix movies often come across. They’re almost such that I’m confident the traditional cinematic format will always have something over the streaming giants. I can think of only a few truly great originals that Netflix has put out, and Beasts of No Nation was one of ’em and it was really blisteringly good, but on the whole many of them I don’t bother with

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